If there is one word to describe this episode, it’s hyperbole. This episode covers manga chapter 15.
Given the manga’s short take on the dodgeball competition in chapter 15, it was actually nice to see important characters at Eden Academy like Housemaster Henderson, Damian and others have a little bit more screen time. After rumor spreads that the winner of PE class’s dodgeball competition may end up with a Stella Star, Yor kicks Anya into shape for the competition.
Amazing Animated Only Scenes!
How the anime handled these training scenes were actually pretty darn amazing. When you have a character like Anya, it shouldn’t be that hard to come up with some gags right? Anya passing out while passing gave me a nice chuckle. Yor throwing the dodgeball knocking multiple trees down was something I wasn’t expecting to see was a pleasant surprise. The point I think people should take away from this episode is that all the added scenes enhanced the quality of the viewing, rather than just be throwaway filler.
Once the episode finally reached the dodgeball competition, Damian and crew had to face off against a literal 6 year old deep voiced brute. This scene played well off of the shonen anime trope of “coming together to beat the bad guy.” This was the “this was what our training was for” moment in animes. The episode continues showing various scenes of Damian and his boys fantasizing over winning the dodgeball competition by pretending to overcome obstacles in their training. At one point, the show does this incredible scene of Damian blocking a ki blast on what looks like Planet Namek off of Dragon Ball Z. This is the exact kind of role-playing that kids do on the playground. Not only is the relatability element of these scenes done well, having easter eggs of other animes is another way to win over other fandoms. I can’t believe they put Damian on Planet Namek! 😂
Playing off more anime tropes, after Damian, Emile and Ewen fail at their attempts to take down Bill, this paved the way for Emile’s “anime sacrifice” trope. While jumping in the way of the ball, Emile has inner dialogue of how much he’s willing to “die” for Damian and that Damian will be the “MVP.” It’s kind of like that Piccolo scene in Dragon Ball Z, when he jumped in the way of Gohan during the Saiyan Saga.
These added filler scenes with the bump in animation is a really welcomed addition, when the show’s creators need to go to this well.
Cohesive Scenes Sets Up Climax
If Loid was present, he might have had a heart attack for what was seemingly a Stella Star on the line as Anya happened to be the last man standing. Whoever did the animation for this episode and came up with the screenplay did a magnificent job. The choice of scenes, jokes and references used all landed. It finally came to a climax as Anya stood strong, ending with what looked like another anime trope where the show’s protagonist lines up their “killer move.” A highly dramatic move like this puts everyone in a very animated and surprise look of shock, as it actually ends humorously anti-climatic with Anya’s throw measly bouncing into the hands of Bill Watkins. Bill picked up the ball bopped Anya on the head and the episode concludes with Becky & Anya arguing with Damian, Emile & Ewen.
How Damian is Going to Win the Audience Over
Here, you have a character that hits all the check-boxes of cliches that a typical normal person wouldn’t like. A condescending superior uppity boy that seemingly has everything handed to him. At first, it may seem like an archetype for your typical antagonist, but Damian has already displayed one quality from the previous episode that many boys and girls like him have experienced, that is rejecting your true feelings for someone you like. In this case, Damian uses bullying and other cold rejecting tactics.
Now, you might say “hey, that still sounds like something an antagonist would do.” You’re right. That is until this episode, we get to understand some deeper issues with Damian. What we can infer is that Damian is being neglected by his father and is building deep self-esteem issues because of his brother’s high achievements that he must live up to. These are the kind of situations that anyone with a sibling can understand. With high divorce rates in the western world, kids without a father may have similar experiences as well. We don’t know much about Damian at this point. In the eyes of the audience, he’s already building a commendable rapport with the viewer, as his character arc continues further after this dodgeball competition ends.
Hyperbolic Bill Watkins
Sometimes you don’t need a strong story when you create characters this damn funny. Bill Watkins, the overgrown kid archetype, taken to the nth degree. Instead of emphasizing Becky’s and many of the other kids reaction of Bill’s ridiculous deep voice and manly physique for a 6 year old; the anime goes deeper in the background of Bill as we’re shown that Bill’s father looks just like M. Bison from Street Fighter. These are the kind of subtle satirical lines/wavelengths of thought that I can infer that is right up my alley for comedy.
From a manga point-of-view, the storytelling brought the humor of the event to life. In the anime, we were able to see the characters’ experiences outside of the the dodgeball tournament. It kind of reminds me of a Naruto Shippuden episode when they are in the middle of a fight and then recall to a backstory to fill-in context.
If there was one nitpick concern I had about Bill’s introduction, it would have been the kids’ reactions to Bill. To me, Bill Watkins is the punch line. I would have imagined that Becky and the other kids would have had a higher quality animated reaction to convey the absurdity of Bill. Like really.. This gargantuan dude is a 6 year old? It’s so preposterous and hyperbolic that it deserves a much richer emphasis on that joke. If there was a “masaka” moment, this was it.
As I’m doing more and more episode reviews, I’m homing in more and more into exactly what I look for in these anime shows. Obviously, there’s the story elements that can’t be overlooked. But, a well scripted episode with the right music and well executed scenes that hits all the “marks,” can really turn a basic story, poor plot and messy logic into a fantastically well received episode. Because of recency bias, I’ll use the latest episode of The Rising of the Shield Hero Season 2, episode 10 as an example of a well made episode that had all those concerns that I mentioned earlier. We’ve seen the worst in animes from the opposite point-of-view like in Tokyo Ghoul and The Promised Neverland Season 2—incredible stories and character that the anime completely butchered.
So, this episode of Spy x Family, had all the good elements of a well made episode with anime only scenes that actually played a huge role in building the episode’s climax. A good plot, lovable characters, supreme comedic qualities and hitting just about every mark that it was meant to hit, exemplified this episode. I love the creativity, the shout outs to the funny anime tropes and the epic animation. This could very well be the most accomplished episode of what the creators had to work with on the season! And I’m not being HYPERBOLIC!